Today in the Legislature

Friday, July 20, 2018 - 02:13 PM

House Judiciary postpones tour of W.Va. Supreme Court

The House Judiciary Committee voted Friday to postpone its scheduled tour of the West Virginia Supreme Court and will ask the court for a tour as a committee accompanied by three members of the media.

Friday marked the fourth day of testimony. Committee Attorney Marsha Kauffman began by reading an affidavit as testimony from Kim Ellis, director of administrative services of the West Virginia Supreme Court. The affidavit was testimony taken from the Judicial Investigation Commission.

Ellis’ testimony from the affidavit said suspended Justice Allen Loughry personally selected the fabric and down in the decorative custom pillows and sketched a map detailing placement of furnishings in his office.

Ellis’ testimony continued, saying the day after former Court Administrator Steve Canterbury was fired, Loughry called Ellis on her personal cell phone. Her testimony said Loughry told her of Canterbury’s firing and said it was his understanding she was a “spy or loyal to Steve Canterbury” but said she had nothing to worry about with her job. Loughry asked her to keep the conversation “off the record,” Kauffman read. The affidavit continued saying Ellis worried about her job. 

The testimony continued recalling a meeting with Ellis, Loughry, and former Court Administrator Gary Johnson where Ellis was questioned about the costs associated with renovations. Ellis’ testimony said Loughry asked her if she recalled a meeting with him where he asked her to write down costs of renovations for former Justice Menis Ketchum and Chief Justice Margaret Workman. Ellis said she felt Loughry was trying to intimidate her or coercer her to lie,

The committee also played the entire recording of Loughry’s budget presentation before the House Finance Committee during session. Judiciary Chair John Shott, R-Mercer, said the Judicial Investigation Committee took Loughry’s entire testimony into account for its charges. In a previous impeachment hearing, the committee had just played the statement quoted in the commission’s complaint. 

The committee granted a motion from Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, to postpone the committee’s scheduled tour of the West Virginia Supreme Court. Fluharty cited First Amendment concerns because members of the media were not allowed on this tour.

The committee granted a second motion from Fluharty to request the court for a tour as a committee accompanied by three members of the media.

Shott said because of the change in nature of the tour, the court informed the committee that it needed to gather the court to discuss. He said the tour would not take place on Friday.

For next week, Shott also said the committee plans to issue a subpoena of Loughry’s wife, inquire into an alleged missing computer, inquire of additional information on renovation expenses, inquire from the state Auditor’s office on the court’s hiring of a consultant, and look into book signings conducted using state vehicles to travel. Shott also said Canterbury is expected to testify next week, saying this could consume a full day or more. 

Shott said this schedule depends on the availability of witnesses.

The House Judiciary Committee is in recess until 9 a.m. Thursday, July 26.

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